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China fights to stop sale of looted relics


By Zhang Lei and Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)

China Tuesday demanded the auction of two looted historic bronze sculptures in Paris be canceled, saying it broke international conventions.

The auction seriously violates the country's cultural rights and interests, and hurts national sentiment, it said.

A Paris court on Monday ruled against stopping the sale of the sculptures, rejecting an appeal filed by the Association for the Protection of Chinese Art in Europe.

The sculptures, of rat and rabbit heads, are part of an art collection from the estate of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, which went on sale at a Christie's auction that started in Paris on Monday.

The heads were taken from Beijing's Old Summer Palace when it was razed by invading French and British forces in 1860 during the Second Opium War.

"The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) has formally informed the auctioneer of our strong opposition to the auction, and clearly demanded its cancellation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a news conference.

"The Western powers have plundered a great amount of Chinese cultural relics including many precious items robbed from the Old Summer Palace. All these should be returned to China," Ma said

SACH said Tuesday that it "strongly objected" to the auction and had written to Christie's asking it to stop the auction.

"We believe there is a common understanding in the international community that looted cultural objects should be returned to their countries. This is a basic cultural right of people in the origin countries," the SACH statement said.

"We requested they stop the auctions and hope the parties (to the auction) understand and respect this proper request from Chinese people," it said.

Song Xinchao, director of the SACH museum department, reiterated Tuesday that China would not buy back the bronzes that rightfully belong to the country.

The auction comes at a time when both China and France are cautiously trying to improve bilateral relations which suffered a setback after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama late last year.

Ren Xiaohong, a Chinese lawyer involved in the bid to stop the auction, said the lawsuit aims to "raise awareness among the public in Europe" about the fate of the numerous looted Chinese relics.

Chinese netizens are furious about the planned auction. An online survey conducted by ifeng.com showed more than 90 percent of the netizens want the bronzes back.

According to the UNESCO Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, any cultural relics looted or lost during wars should be returned without any limitation of time span.

Meanwhile, Chinese lawyers will "make every effort" to halt the auction despite the unfavorable court ruling, said Li Xingfeng, one of the 81 lawyers involved in the bid to stop the auction. But he refused to elaborate on what they would do.

"If they are sold, we will start legal proceedings against the buyer," he said.

Source: China Daily

China News 0 Comment February 27, 2009, 1:25 pm


By Xinhua writers Fu Shuangqi and Wu Xiaojun

BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- China on Thursday hit back at a United States report on its human rights with its own report on the U.S. human rights record.

"The U.S. practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with human rights issues and has undermined its international image," the Information Office of the State Council said in its report on the U.S. human rights record.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2008 was in retaliation to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 issued by the U.S. Department of State on Feb. 25.

For years, the United States had positioned itself over other countries and released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices annually to criticize human rights conditions in other countries, using it as a tool to interfere with and demonize other nations, the report said. The U.S. has turned a blind eye to its own violations of human rights.

"As in previous years, the reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but mention nothing of the widespread human rights abuses on its own territory," China said in its report.

"The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2008 is prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States, and as a reminder for the United States to reflect upon its own issues," China said.

The report reviewed the U.S. human rights record from six perspectives: life and personal security; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; racial discrimination; rights of women and children; and the United States' violation of human rights in other countries.

The report warned the United States that widespread violent crime posed serious threats to its people's lives and security.

According to a report published in September 2008 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the country reported 1.4 million violent crimes, including 17,000 murders and 9.8 million property crimes in 2007.

More frequent gun killings were a serious threat to the lives of U.S. citizens, the report said.

It quoted the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention assaying that 1.35 million high school students in 2007 were either threatened or injured with a weapon at least once on school property.

The report said an increasing number of restrictions had been imposed on civil rights in the United States.

It cited government surveillance of online activities, new legislation on government wiretapping last July, more cases of police abuse of force and neglect of basic rights of 2.3 million prisoners in the United States.

The United States was facing a number of social problems, including a wide wealth gap, increasing number of homeless, needy people and those suffering hunger, the report said.

It quoted the U.S. Census Bureau as saying in August 2008 that 12.5 percent of Americans, or 37.3 million people, were living in poverty in 2007, up from 36.5 million in 2006.

The unemployment rate increased from 4.6 percent in 2007 to 5.8percent in 2008, the report said.

People in the United States saw their pension plans shrink, health insurance cut and school tuition increase, while drugs, suicide and other social problems prevailed, according to the report.

The report said racial discrimination prevails in "every aspect of social life" in the United States, ranging from income, employment, education, to judicial system, often with African Americans as major victims.

"Nearly one quarter of black American households live below the poverty line, three times that of white households," it said, citing The State of Black America, issued by the National Urban League in March 2008.

The jobless rate for blacks was 10.6 percent in the third quarter of 2008, twice that of the whites, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The report said the African American high school graduation and college entry rates still lingered at the level of whites "two or three decades ago", and African American students in public schools were "more likely to get physical punishment than White children."

"African American youths arrested for murder are at least three times more likely than their white peers to receive life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," the report said, quoting a 2008 report of the New York-based Human Rights Watch. ...

China Culture 0 Comment February 27, 2009, 1:18 pm


Workers at abandoned foreign-owned factories who are owed wages do have rights to file suit under existing laws and regulations in China, according to Jerry Wong, a specialist in labor law at the Shenzhen office of Lehman, Lee and Xu, one of the nation’s top law firms.

"With the current global financial downturn increasingly impacting exports, there have been cases of improper divestment by foreign companies operating in the Pearl River Delta," Wong said. "Such sudden evacuation leaving behind factories, equipment, debt and wages in arrears without liquidation and bankruptcy is clearly illegal."

He noted that the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice have together issued an important notice establishing guidelines in how to file grievances against fleeing foreign owners.

"The notice says that once the improper divestment happens, Chinese parties should promptly file a case with the People's Court or Public Security Bureau," Wong said. "Even though the foreign party has fled abroad, authorities can move to extradite them or implement a civil judgment pursuant to the judicial support agreements signed between China and foreign countries."

"With this recent notice, we do have a strong opinion that once the improper divestment happens, damaged parties should immediately file a case with the authorities in order to at least decrease their losses."

He added that while China’s Labor Contract Law requires foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) to pay into the social security system, the law does not otherwise increase labor costs.

"Some FIEs that fled have said the law increases their labor costs, but that is not the case," Wong said. "Their problem is that they have been unable to adapt to changes in the industrial structure and markets."

He added that "FIEs who only purchase cheap labor at low environmental costs" were having problems before the onset of the global economic crisis.
"Of course now they are even more affected," he said.

Source: Press Room of Lehman, Lee & Xu

China Law 0 Comment February 26, 2009, 10:31 am


By Diao Ying (China Daily)

A high-level business delegation heads to Europe today to sign deals potentially worth billions of dollars on a "wide range of buying interests".

Some media reports put the price tag at 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) while others believe that the figure could be considerably higher - but Ministry of Commerce (MOC) officials said there was no way to arrive at an amount before the contracts were actually signed.

The business delegation led by Minister of Commerce Chen Deming is seen as being on a mission to strengthen China-Europe trade ties prior to President Hu Jintao's trip to the G20 Summit, to be held in London in April.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited four European countries in early February, was the first senior Chinese official to announce plans for the so-called "procurement teams" during his trip.

The commerce minister's trip is scheduled to cover Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Spain, the four countries on Wen's itinerary.

Observers also say the commerce minister's mission would showcase China's strong domestic demand as well as its determination to fight trade protectionism.

"Chen can take a positive message to the world: China, as a major trading power, has no interest in adopting protectionism," said Song Hong, an international trade researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

According to MOC officials, the trade delegates are from Chinese industry associations and companies associated with vehicles and vehicle parts, machinery and electrical products, and environmental protection technologies.

MOC spokesman Yao Jian has said China's rising demand for European goods stems from the 4-trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus plan that Beijing rolled out in November 2008.

The plan includes huge infrastructure projects, so "Europe has an obvious edge in providing us with the equipment we need," he said.

Zhang Yansheng, a research official with the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning office, said sending procurement missions to the EU can create a win-win situation.

"Chinese buyers would love to have government insurance on price, quality and delivery time while European sellers can see a good business opportunity," he said.

The initiative is also intended to create a balance in trade, officials said.

China is a key market for the EU and is the 25-nation bloc's fastest growing export destination. Bilateral trade increased 19 percent year-on-year to $425.6 billion in 2008, with China having a trade surplus of $160 billion.

Source: China Daily

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China Business 0 Comment February 25, 2009, 2:00 pm


Kandy Wong and Martin Zhou in Beijing
Feb 23, 2009

Even as the mainland's state-backed commodity companies have been on an overseas acquisition spree, manufacturing firms have been advised by the central government to slow down foreign mergers and acquisitions, as it believes global asset prices will continue to slide and better terms can be had for offshore acquisitions by waiting.
China Minmetals Corp and Aluminum Corp of China (SEHK: 2600) are awaiting approval from the Australian government for a combined investment of US$21.2 billion in debt-laden OZ Minerals and Rio Tinto Group, while iron ore exporter Fortescue Metals Group is reported to have held investment talks with China Investment Corp and Hunan Valin Iron and Steel Group.

These acquisitions have sparked hopes that mainland companies would buy more overseas industrial and commodity assets.

Many investment banks are actively pitching acquisition opportunities in China as the country has the financial strength to bid for assets of cash-starved global corporations struggling to finance their operations and reduce debt amid the financial crisis.

"The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission hopes the manufacturing sector, excluding the commodity industry, will adopt a wait-and-see attitude to purchasing global assets," a source close to the commission quoted its chief, Li Rongrong, as saying in a recent internal meeting.

"Investment banks would like to target the vehicle, resources, and banking industries. But the central government will not approve the completion of overseas acquisitions by local carmakers and banks for some time," said a source.

"Beijing may issue approval only if the buyers can provide convincing reasons, such as the strategic importance of securing the deals," the source added.

Unlike the vehicle and finance sectors, mainland commodity companies have won approval to proceed with aggressive offshore expansion plans as prices in the resources sectors plunged.

"Relatively speaking it's easier for commodity companies to justify their acquisitions from a strategic point of view," the source said.

In contrast, China's largest carmaker, SAIC Motor Corp, has suffered considerable losses on a US$500 million controlling investment made in South Korean sports-utility vehicle subsidiary Ssangyong Motor, which secured bankruptcy protection last month only after winning government support to turn the company around.

Shanghai-based SAIC took the lead in 2004 in acquiring global vehicle assets as Beijing encouraged big corporations to "reach out" and learn technological skills from international carmakers.

"But now the government worries about buying into worthless or depreciating assets," the source said.

In addition to SAIC's offshore investment problems, China Investment Corp's US$5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley and a US$3 billion stake in Blackstone Group have shrunk by more than 60 per cent since 2007. Ping An Insurance (Group) (SEHK: 2318) booked a loss of 15.7 billion yuan (HK$17.8 billion) last year on a 5 per cent stake it bought in Dutch-Belgian financial group Fortis for 23.9 billion yuan.

Numerous reports said earlier that some carmakers, such as Guangzhou Automotive Industry Corp, Hong Kong-listed Geely Automobile Holdings (SEHK: 0175) and Dongfeng Motor (SEHK: 0489), as well as Shenzhen-listed Chongqing Changan Automobile, had held preliminary talks with Ford Motor of the United States on the acquisition of its Volvo passenger car unit for US$6 billion. However, the mainland carmakers denied any possible acquisitions by saying that the domestic market and internal business of the companies should top the list.

"The Chinese carmakers can't complete global acquisition deals by themselves as they don't have enough net cash," the source said.

Sichuan Automobile, a maker of small cars, also denied it had met General Motors for talks about buying its Hummer sports-utility vehicle brand. "Obviously, car giants in the US have an imminent need to sell their assets to generate cash," the source said.

Source: South China Morning Post

China Business 0 Comment February 24, 2009, 12:17 pm


Denise Tsang
Feb 17, 2009

The Ministry of Commerce has raised the warning flag on rising global protectionism, saying policies such as the "Buy American" move passed by the United States Congress could exacerbate the economic crisis.
Tense Sino-US trade relations took a turn for the worse after Congress last week refused to scrap requirements under its US$789 billion economic stimulus plan for infrastructure projects to use domestic materials.

Ministry spokesman Yao Jian has urged the World Trade Organisation to scrutinise economic stimulus measures being introduced around the world and called on members of the trade body to abide by rules and maintain a level playing field.

"Some countries have prioritised the purchase of domestically made products in economic stimulus packages," Mr Yao said. "We are deeply worried about this."

The mainland, dubbed the "factory of the world", is facing a slide in exports and investment as the global financial crisis deepens.

Concerned about the decline in their own industries, some countries are raising barriers to free trade.

India has introduced a series of trade sanctions on Chinese-made products including 17 types of imports worth US$1.5 billion, as well as a ban on imports of mainland toys.

China's concerns about protectionism deepened after Premier Wen Jiabao warned of emerging protectionist measures during his European tour two weeks ago.

Mr Yao said: "We are against any form of protectionism, which will only exacerbate the already difficult economic situation."

He pointed out that some countries were abusing the WTO's rules on economic stimulation such as anti-dumping duties and subsidies, while other nations were raising trade barriers by imposing import tariffs and banning or restricting imports of goods and technology.

Distancing itself from any protectionist measures, China would send trade delegations to Britain, Germany, Spain and Switzerland shortly to procure goods, services and technologies that those countries wanted to sell on the mainland, he added.

The procurement initiative that Mr Wen heralded during his European tour was aimed at opening markets and helping revive the world's economy, Mr Yao said.

The shopping list and value of purchases would be determined by the delegations, which would include companies and industry associations, he said.

Some economists said the mainland's export-driven economy faced heavier headwinds if protectionism worsened.

The country's overseas shipments took a deeper than expected 17.5 per cent dive last month.

To maintain the government's target of 8 per cent economic growth this year, Beijing is expected to introduce fresh measures to spur domestic demand in addition to the 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.54 trillion) economic stimulus plan.

Mr Yao said sales of about 1,000 leading retailers grew 24.5 per cent last month.

He said the increase underscored the effects of the economic stimulus plan that Beijing introduced in November last year and which brought brisk business during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Car sales were stronger last month, growing 4.4 per cent over December on the back of tax incentives, Mr Yao said.

Higher demand also led to a rebound in prices of commodities from December, with charcoal up 14 per cent, iron ore 10.4 per cent and steel 7.6 per cent.

Source: South China Morning Post

China News 0 Comment February 23, 2009, 12:08 pm


By David Cowhig

On the village level, Miao customary laws and regulations operate in parallel with and reinforce provincial and national regulations according to recent book by two Guizhou University scholars. Here is capsule summary of one of them:
Miao Customary Law and PRC State Laws Seen from the Perspective of Legal Diversity A Field Study in the Ethnic Miao Nationality Region of SW Qiandong Prefecture 法律多元视角下的苗族习惯法与国家法——来自黔东南苗族地区的田野调查[Falu duoyuan shijiao xiade miaozu xiguanfa yu guojiafa laizi qiangdong dongnan miaozu diqu de tianye diaocha] by Xu Shaoguang 徐晓光 and Wen Xinyu 文新宇, published Guizhou, December 2006, Guizhou Minzu Chubanshe (Guizhou Nationalities Publishing House). Xu Shaoguang is a professor at the Law School of the Guizhou Minorities University. Wen Xinyu, an ethnic Miao and native of Leishan County, is an assistant researcher at the Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences and graduate of the Law School of the Guizhou Minorities University.

The Miao do not have a written language so their laws and legal tradition is passed down through word of mouth, especially during gatherings at special memorial markers and through songs. Customary law enacted over the centuries covers a wide range of issues including marriage, libel, theft, murder, land boundaries, mountain land use, forest rights, and extortion. Miao have used gatherings for legislation and setting up boundaries to A organize themselves regionally as in 1937 when thousands of Miao rallied to oppose high taxes and impressments of Miao into Chiang Kal-shek's KMT army. For the past several hundred years, rich forest resources brought more attention to the Miao areas of Guizhou and the increasing imposition there of Chinese law and written contracts, although Miao traditional law continued to function at the local level. During the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 191 central government officials in Miao areas left village civil disputes to traditional laws and often deferred to customary law in handling serious criminal cases as well.

Miao customary law sets aside village forest land as a community resource that is protected and managed. The rich forest resources in the Miao areas were one of the reasons for strong Han immigration and conflict in the nineteenth century. With the founding of the PRC in 1949, Miao traditional, man-made forest lands were mistakenly considered to be virgin forest and so became state property whereas they were actually well-managed resources. The removal of the forestlands from the management under Miao customary law and their effective opening to anyone's use as "state or local collectivity assets?' led to serious conflicts during the l980s. For example, from 1981 - 1987 in the Miao county of Jinping alone, there were over three thousand forest land dispute that led to nine riots, three deaths and 86 people seriously injured. During the l990s, many Miao villages in the Qiandong Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture re-established traditional regulations and fines relating to forest management that had previously been in effect for hundreds of years.
Traditional customary Miao law, operating in parallel with PRC law, has proven effective in restoring order to forest management. Offenders are typically fined cows or pigs which they must contribute to a feast enjoyed by all the villagers. (see Xu and Wen below, pp. 122 - 132).

During the past 30 years of opening and reform, Miao traditional law has again come to play an important role in resolving village disputes. The authors caution "we should uphold Marxist dialectical materialism, and study [traditional law] and keep the part of it that represents a good popular traditions and reject the part of it that is feudal nonsense." Village disputes are solved by debate in front of all the villagers, sometimes checking whether a duck's eye is intact after cooking to determine if the accuser or the accused should win. Once the verdict is decided, everyone shares in the feast as a pledge that the dispute is settled and the village rules will be obeyed. If a solution is available under Miao law, Miao generally will not take their cases of a PRC state court, even in instances where the punishment would be much lighter under PRC law.

A survey of people fined under Miao traditional law generally told researchers "our village rules were made by everyone, including me. Therefore they must be carried out." (Xu, p. 82). The authors write that the "PRC Village Council Organization Law" allows villages to make regulations as long as they do not conflict with the PRC constitution, laws and regulations and even gives villagers the right to fine themselves. (Xu, pp. 80 - 83) The authors remark that they recall how for decades China has tried to implement the rule by law in the countryside yet has failed, yet in their studies of Miao villages they see how PRC laws are routinely ignored but are then deeply impressed how villages very conscientiously respect Miao customary law. (Xu, p. 85) The authors note that the revival of customary law and village self governance has made possible the revival of clan power, with the problems that brings, although clans can sometimes play a useful role in solving dispute in the current transitional period before rule by law can be fully established in the villages.

A review of this book in Chinese is at www.cqvip.com/onlineread/onlineread.asp?ID=25029636 ...

China Law 1 Comment February 20, 2009, 1:09 pm


Actual foreign direct investment (FDI) in China in January 2009 fell 32.6 percent from a year earlier to $7.54 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said.

The number of foreign-funded enterprises approved also dropped 48.7 percent to 1,496.

At the press conference on Feb.16th, Yao Jian, a spokesman for the ministry, attributed the decline to the high base a year before and the disruption caused by the Spring Festival holidays.

Noting that the latest FDI figure was close to the monthly average of $7.7 billion in 2008, Yao said that more opportunities for foreign investment are expected in coming months with the national macro economic policy in place.

Resource: China Daily

China News 0 Comment February 18, 2009, 4:08 pm


By Wang Qian (China Daily)

An international copyright exchange center was established yesterday in Yong He Plaza in Beijing to promote the development of China's copyright industry.

The center provides comprehensive copyright services to the public including legal advice, copyright evaluation and copyright licensing.

The center will improve the development of the cultural creative industry, effectively fight piracy and protect Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), said Beijing Deputy Mayor Cai Fuchao yesterday.

"As our copyright market is still in the primary stage, many problems exist. The establishment of the center will speed up the development of the copyright industry," said Yan Xiaohong, deputy minister of the National Copyright Administration (NCA).

Dongcheng district officials established a special fund for the cultural creative industry of 50 million yuan to attract cultural creative companies to join the center.

So far, influential companies and copyright agencies that have entered the center include China Audio-Video Copyright Association and Copyright Agency of China.

"In the coming three years, the center will become the most influential development zone of the copyright industry covering music, video, animation, games, software and other copyright fields," Cai said.

By Nov 24 of last year, courts nationwide tried 962 IPR cases, with 444 involving copyright and 243 involving trademark disputes, according to the Supreme People's Court.

Source: (China Daily 02/17/2009 page4)

China News 0 Comment February 17, 2009, 5:22 pm


With an update covering Macau, attorneys from the Beijing-headquartered law firm Lehman, Lee and Xu have again co-authored an Oxford University Press guide to registering and protecting trademarks in China.

The recently released 34-page Macau segment is part of the two-volume Oxford Press “Trademark Practice & Forms” publication that covers 60 jurisdictions worldwide, with an emphasis on how to register marks, maintain registration and enforce registered rights.

The guide also provides a detailed explanation of laws and regulations on trademark registration requirements and procedures, oppositions, extensions, renewals and reinstatements. Along with the Mainland and Hong Kong guides, the Macao segment is now amended with the very latest information.

After Macao became Special Administrative Region in 1999 and subsequently joined the World Trade Organization, it adopted international standard property rights regulations that provide strong protection. With the end of the state gambling monopoly, multinational gaming companies opened some of the largest casinos in the world in Macao and trademark applications have since increased four-fold from 1,705 in 2002 to 7,200 in 2007.

For further information, contact: elehman@lehmanlaw.com at Lehman, Lee and Xu. To order for the guide from Oxford University Press, visit www.oup.com.

China Business 0 Comment February 17, 2009, 2:26 pm


Lehman, Lee & Xu held its annual party on January 16, 2009, to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The firm and its employees had much to celebrate as they came together after a very successful year. The past year of 2008 has witnessed many ups and downs in the financial and business sectors as well as the legal industries throughout the world. However, because of its long-standing presence and experience working in China and its prominent, loyal client base, LEHMAN, LEE & XU has been experiencing impressive growth, even during this time of down-sizing and demotions. While businesses are being forced to trim down before the year of 2009, Lehman, Lee & Xu is building muscle in order to keep its clients safer and better protected in the midst of this financial storm.




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China Blawg (en) 0 Comment February 5, 2009, 4:48 pm